Aesthetics and politics of contemporary São Paulo theater



Commentary on Artur Kon's book

Combining aesthetic reflection and political-cultural action, theater groups from São Paulo joined together in 1998 in the “Art against barbarism” movement. This movement resulted in the creation of the Theater Promotion Law for the City of São Paulo, in 2002, which became a milestone for reflection on public policies aimed at the performing arts in Brazil. This period, which extends from the end of the 1990s to the 2000s, is considered by critics as the rebirth phase of the markedly political group theater, because in accordance with the “ethical-dialectical model” of Berthold Brecht, it is taken by Artur Kon in On Theatercracy: aesthetics and politics of contemporary theater in São Paulo[I] as the third cycle of political theater in São Paulo.

The first cycle of political theater is that of the 1920s and 1930s, “more literary than scenic”, and not due to a deficiency in Oswald de Andrade’s dramaturgy (The Sailing King, The Man and the Horse e To morta) or Mário de Andrade (the opera The coffee), but because of the “incapacity of the professional theater of the time”.[ii] The second cycle of group political theater in São Paulo is that of the national-popular project, which lasted from 1961 to 1964; that is, from Teatro de Arena to the Centro Popular de Cultura of the União Nacional dos Estudantes (CPC-UNE), which incorporated Brechtian techniques.

in the center of theatrocracy by Artur Kon is the analysis of a split within the third cycle of politicization of theater in São Paulo. A first group, as the author shows, assuming a Marxist and Brechtian position that goes back to studies on Brecht's poetics at Companhia do Latão in 1997, defended "a critical realism", "averse to formal experimentation" stigmatized as "bourgeois, conservative, and uncritical”.[iii]

Reacting to this position, a second group, considering that Brechtian poetics no longer “allowed to advance in the thought of its own contradictions”,[iv] was open to other scenic conceptions such as those presented in the book postdramatic theater, by Hans-Thies Lehmann, published in Germany in 1999 and in Brazil in 2007[v] – a book that made it possible, it is worth noting, for several creators to conceptually situate their own scenic production already in progress. Among the causes of this split in the theatrical movement, one cannot ignore, as Kon points out, the dispute between these groups for the scarce resources of the public policies that were just won at the time, which precociously turned the Development Law into the Law of Torment, in the acid finding of Paulo Arantes.[vi]

This book examines in clear and rigorous prose, articulating mastery of the theatrical craft with skill in the conceptual fabric, works that reacted to the predominance of Brecht's epic form authorized by Marxist scholars and Brechtian critics. Amidst the copious production in the third cycle of São Paulo theater, Kon chose plays in which the themes migrated from the processes and research of the groups to the scenic form, such as: (see[ ]ter), by 2012, and Permanent Plagiarism Laboratory, from 2013, by Cia Les Commediens Tropicales; raffle, by 2012, and Those who no longer know who they are, what they are and where they are need to move, 2009, by Cia São Jorge de Variedades; oil, from 2012, from Tablado de Arruar; It is Oh farol, from 2013, by the collective OPOVOEMPÉ.

These works were considered by Kon as the most significant of the period, because they would have radically incorporated, in the materiality of theatrical making, the problems and impasses of the present, thus boosting scenic thinking. They are plays by “non-hierarchical groups” – because they dispensed with the “aesthetic director” in favor of a “collective director” – who developed research on themes and languages, informed by an expanded field of theoretical references, in the form of urban intervention –, with exception of Petroleum, performed on a conventional stage.

The analysis of these works does not, however, assume a laudatory tone, because Kon does not fail to highlight what is in them precisely of inconsistency in form, taking this fragility as a symptom of the equally problematic precariousness of the social and political reality of the period. By the way, one of the great merits of the book is the primacy given by the author to the object, to the development of the dramaturgy in each of the chosen plays, or, as Adorno would say, to its “singular truth”. It is remarkable the skill with which he investigated, concretely, how each group dealt with the availability of theatrical material, verifying the formative possibilities opened by the historicity of its uses. These pieces of post-Brechtian São Paulo political theater would thus be truly contemporary, insofar as they made “advance the current problems of scenic material”.

They are post-dramatic, or “non-text-centric” pieces – which means that they do not eliminate the text, but take it as one of the elements, among others, of the scenic configuration —, which leave the closed space of the theater building towards the space public; or that occupy both the stage and the streets, as in Those who no longer know who they are, what they are and where they are need to move. The main thing would not be the abandonment of all forms of representation in favor of an intervention directly inscribed in reality, but “the reconfiguration of the visible, representable field”, on stage or in the streets.

Em (see[ ]ter) by Cia Les Commediens Tropicales, a “scenic creation of an interventionist character”, in the characterization of the company itself, composed of independent groups, the theatrical gesture does not consist in claiming immediate access to the real said as opposed to the representation and autonomy of the artistic form, but in the “exposure of an interruption”, in Brecht’s direction – or in a “dialectical image”, in Benjamin’s sense – in opposition to to hegemonic images (such as stereotyped forms of dramatic representation).

It is possible to take this piece in the key of the pamper yourself, if we attribute to it the meaning that Adorno gives it, namely: that of losing oneself in otherness instead of actively imposing oneself on it; a sense that Kon approximates to the Freudian-Lacanian view of the death drive, as “(traumatic) insistence on the encounter with the emptiness of an impossible Real”.[vii] In this way, the “repetition of self-destructive gestures and images” in (see[ ]ter) it would integrate the trauma into the psychic economy, which is of the symbolic order. Allowing itself to be constituted by otherness (contemporary horror), the play would incorporate “in its own environment the logic of what is external to it, transforming the external into the environment of its own logic”.[viii]

It can be said, therefore, that urban intervention in (see[ ]ter) is not so close to the said existing reality to the point of sinking into it, since there is an elaboration of this failed encounter with the Real in the immanence of the theatrical form. If this post-traumatic piece allows “a place to show itself in a new light”,[ix] in Lehmann's expression, "making see what was not fit to be seen",[X] now in Rancière's expression, it is because it preserves the autonomy of the artistic form (that is, a certain “re-theatricalization”), albeit in a problematic form, after successive attempts by the artistic vanguards to overcome it.

raffle, by Cia São Jorge de Variedades, begins with a mythical or fictional rather than historical or factual representation of the origins of the Barra Funda neighborhood. Continuing, however, producing a “short circuit between the mythical past and the problematic present”, the play, revealing itself to be self-reflexive, criticizes its own nostalgia for an idyllic origin by showing that at the foundation of the “one and stable social whole” is the “ violent exclusion”, “the part of the without part”.[xi] And it is in the affirmation of this “dissensus” that is at the origin of politics, according to Jacques Rancière, that the play’s strength of resistance would reside, insofar as it would indicate the possibility of a new “sharing of the sensitive”, that is, in the “ways of of being, seeing, saying, doing” of a community.[xii]

The occupation of the streets of Barra Funda would awaken, in other words, new collective possibilities of subjectivation against the “certainties of the place”. The return to the past would not, therefore, be “nostalgia for the past that happened”, in a conservative way, but an active work of remembering a promise of a forgotten future in a past that has not yet been told to us – a “past of dreams, revolutions and utopias ”.[xiii] Em raffle, in summary, the denial of an original community does not imply the cynicism that reaffirms the impossibility of changes, since it would allow experiencing something of a desirable community yet to come.

raffle it also elaborates the political theater of the past in its theatrical form in the present, or, more precisely, it investigates the reasons why not only the revolutionary political theater failed, but, more broadly, the very hope of building a reality entirely different from the ones historical vanguards: “As a character from Barafonda: Before continuing, we must admit that we failed”.[xiv] This failure of the avant-garde attempt to mix up art and life cannot be dissociated – as Kon shows from Christoph Menke – from the “historical experiences of the successive defeats of communist projects”,[xv] in which Brechtian political theater is inserted: raffle, in this direction, would aim, according to the author, to stage this experience of failure, not to reaffirm the defeat as inexorable, but to, in its recognition, work on the reasons for this defeat.

The analysis of Oil, with text by Alexandre Del Farra and set design and dramaturgy by Clayton Machado, is exemplary. Kon shows with unusual refinement how the characterization of the Brazilian elite as violent, predatory, “given to kitsch and downgraded culture”,[xvi] in a perverse political and economic system that incessantly reaffirms class differences, has been embedded mimetically to the very materiality of the play, refusing the distancing effect of traditional political theater. Oil it is an investigation of the possibilities of a post-dramatic political theater that does not return to the rules of Brechtian epic theater, or the melodramatic structure that opposes, in a Manichean way, executioners to victims.

Questioning the stereotypes of political theater, the play refutes “the dramaturgy of the victim of social injustice”: “Yes! We are tired of these opinions put on stage or in the cinema, which serve to make us feel on the right side”[xvii] — exclaims the character Jane. Avoiding the theater of denunciation aimed at claiming compensation policies, Oil examines the failure of criticism on the part of the left that ended up paralyzed, as Kon comments, in cynicism or despair.

In cynicism, to the extent that the critical awareness of the debacle of Brazilian society ended up becoming an awareness devoid of any power, and therefore without real effect, as indicated by the never-ending circular speeches of the characters in the play; or in despair, in relation to the impotence of those who, being discarded in our society, perceive the harmlessness of “their decisions, judgments or speeches”, as materially manifested in the play, “in the screams, profanities, or in the crude arguments that dominate the discussions”.[xviii]

Insatiable violence, reacting to conformism, presents itself as the last resource in a world “where any rational argument is reverted into immobilizing cynicism”.[xx] “Oil is born of hatred”, says Jane: “Also under the avenues and the big cities, and under the buildings, and the subway lines, and under everything that is civilized there is hidden a slow and continuous process of rot and fermentation, guilt, remorse, pain…”.[xx]

Oil it is, in short, a violent subterranean force, a destructive power, like the one that constitutes every utopia, despite the resistance of the left in admitting it, above all in assuming it, since “in order for the new to emerge, it is necessary to open space in the old, it is necessary to destroy what is there”: “The pleasure of destroying is also a constructive pleasure. If something that exists is destroyed, in these ruins something new appears. Of course, all this within a dialectical process”,[xxx] as Kon acutely observes from Bakunin.

At the heart of the formal operations of Oil is, therefore, violence as “mimesis of the petrified”, in the words of Adorno[xxiii]. Its power of the negative manifests itself in the disposition of the “clashing materials”, in a friction that, in Dal Farra's intent, “makes room for the unpredictable”.[xxiii] Drawing on Adorno's comments to Beckett, Kon shows that, in Oil, we have parody understood as a game between tragedy and comedy, or more precisely, a “use of forms at the time of the impossibility” of their use,[xxv] in such a way that this impossibility implies changes in the form itself. In Dal Farra, as in Samuel Beckett, “the three Aristotelian units remain, but the drama itself perishes” in such a way that “its dramatic components (exposure, plot, adventure and catastrophe) reappear in his plays after his death”.[xxiv]

In the final act, above all, Oil it is also critical in the face of the paralyzing withdrawal of criticism, not because it believes in the power of theater to transform reality, but because it takes “a position in the face of this impossibility”, or rather, because it discovers “the possibility of saying something”[xxv] about this same reality by rubbing and twisting the already reified scenic language, discovering that, through these operations, effectively, “something is said”.

Oil thus shows, according to Kon, that it is possible to work from the ruins of the modern building, appropriating, for example, the dramaturgies of Brecht and Beckett, who would reciprocally correct each other in this play, proceeding to a close reflection on “life post-mortem of the dramaturgy itself”; because, “just as oil comes from the decomposition of living matter, the potential to say something” is fed, in the author's parallel, from the “wear and tear of the scenic material”.[xxviii]

The engagement and the revolutionary struggles of the political theater are the central themes of Those who no longer know who they are, what they are and where they are need to move, by Cia São Jorge de Variedades, which was a great success with the public and critics. The piece begins with a poster affixed to a wall with the couplet “The Revolution begins as a walk”, followed by a tour around a block by an “unusual group” who, with slogans shouted at full lungs, "simulates a revolutionary action",[xxviii] to then return to the place of presentation, to the stage where the staging will be concentrated until its end when the group will then return to the streets.

It is interesting to note that Kon, as well as Cia São Jorge, whose play takes place both on the street and on stage, do not attribute an “ontological difference”, much less a hierarchical one, between the theater of intervention in urban space and that which develops in a building. theatrical. There is no difference, because in both cases, according to the author, we would be facing the “same impossibility of accessing the Real”, a fatality that determines theater as a field of representation, even though it is possible to tension this field, “subvert it from inside” or even extend its limits — as in the pieces examined in the book. What would not be possible is to overcome representation through the aestheticization of life, as the artistic vanguards intended. Furthermore, if the street is equated with the stage in this regard, it is because theatrical interventions in the public space are already institutionalized, as happened with the happenings or performances that ended up being converted into artistic languages.

The staging of revolutionary action at the opening of Who doesn't know who he is anymore... – which refers, at first sight, to the nostalgia of an original community in raffle – is characterized by Kon as “carnivalization without carnival”, or even, as “a presence of ghosts” which “is simply mocked”, perhaps because this is “the only acceptable way to see them return to the scene”,[xxix] given the lack of perspective of effective changes in the present. After the “tragedy of real socialism” (and the end of the artistic vanguards), it would only be possible to stage revolutionary characters and actions in a histrionic, spectral way, mixing clichés: “we are now in the farce stage after the tragedy; and there is no more tragedy going on; and there won't be any others”, sentences Heiner Muller quoted by Kon.[xxx]

In terms of parody, here too the play satirizes both the series of mistakes made by revolutionary militants with their “intransigent self-certainty” and the didactic, if not authoritarian, discourse of engaged theater. Staging the frustrated attempts as a result of left-wing militancy misjudgments, Who doesn't know who he is anymore... shows that the meaning of history cannot be teleologically determined, since “things make sense in a very erratic way”, or, as Alenka Zupancic says, “meaning itself is an error, it has the structure of an error”.[xxxii]

Em Who doesn't know who he is anymore..., is not, however, just a staging of the failure of the revolutionary engagement in the past, because in the course of the play we have the passage from the “farce of the tragedy of the revolution” to “a comedy of the revolutionary subject”[xxxi] in the present. Little by little, through reiteration, the play constructs, on stage, the idea of ​​failure not as a surrender, but as a motive for the action. If the staging of ever-renewed attempts to continue to act produces the shift from the heroic to the comic genre, it is not “because one fails again and again, but because again and again one insists”.[xxxii]

And if there is insistence, it is because it is not known “how many times an idea will have to fail before being victorious”,[xxxv] in such a way that while it is not victorious, only failure can guide political action again. In Who doesn't know who he is anymore... we thus have the transformation of the failure of the melodramatic and epic poetics of the traditional political theater into a “poetics of failure” of the postdramatic theater, and not into a “poetics that fails”, not least because the insistence on failure is revealed “ the failure of failure,[xxxiv] as Kon insists.

This emphasis on action as a “stubborn attempt” by “revolutionary actors” is also associated, by the author, with engagement in the theatrical production process, in a work whose meaning and value reside above all in the investment in the craft itself, in art as a purpose. without end to the detriment of the “produced object”. This distinction, however, does not Who doesn't know who he is anymore... of left-wing thought, as Kon well warns, resorting to the following statement by Antonio Candido: “Socialism is an endless goal. You have to act everyday like it's possible to get to heaven, but you won't. But if you don't make this fight, you fall into hell”.[xxxiv]

Em Oh farol, part of the trilogy The Time Machine ( long now) by the OPOVOEMPÉ collective, we have, according to Kon, an investigation of the limits of theatrical form or the very notion of a work of art. This “play” consists of a displacement of only one or two spectators, at each performance, along a determined route in the city of São Paulo. The route starts at the reception of the Sheraton WTC Hotel, on Av. of the United Nations, where spectators, after making their check-in, head to Shopping D&D, nearby, heading to a train station to finally board towards the outskirts.

It is an aesthetic walk that refers, at first sight, to the stroll Baudelairean amidst the ruins of Haussmann's urban reforms; the Dada group's anti-artistic visits-excursions to banal places; to surrealist wanderings through the unconscious part of the modern city, or to situationist drifts that aimed to inhabit the city in alternative ways. The differences between these displacements, however, do not take long to impose themselves on the reader, who, guided by Kon's sure hand, finds that the spectator The headlight, do not wander aimlessly, not lost like the surrealists in search of the sensation of the marvelous, nor does it occupy the city with the intention of replacing useful time with ludic-constructive time, in the sense of the situationists.

Oh farol it is a theater without actors, which “does not create a scene”, a show. The actors are replaced by discreet guides, conductors-performers that aim to facilitate the experience of spectators during this tour anti-tourist metro. If there is a scene, it resides, in Kon's conjecture, in the “views, experiences or memories” of travelers who observe, select, interpret or compare what they see on the route to what has already been seen before. As in Who doesn't know who he is anymore... ex-spotter, now a participant – as the fruition is characterized in certain contemporary art – lives the experience of an endless purpose, given that he does not instrumentally move around the city in order to reach a given destination as usually happens, but inhabits the displacement itself, even if be guided by the guides.

Kon further examines whether this emphasis on Oh farol in the subjective experience of the receiver, to the detriment of the objectivity of the theatrical scene, would not entail, in Adorno's expression, a "disartization" (Entkunstung) of art, since it would jeopardize its own existence as an autonomous reality. His conclusion is that, unlike the pieces The mirror e The Festa that make up the trilogy of OPOVOEMPÉ, the objective criteria of the theatrical form in Oh farol they prevent the spectator's unbridled subjectivism; or that their experience ends up being reduced to “pseudo-lyricism” or mere cultural consumerism.

In the fruition of this play, the subjective moment of the free course of the spectator's associations would be corrected by the objective moment of the theatrical material, that is, by the firm conduct exerted by the guides who alternate the rhythm of their waits and displacements. So that, if at first the play seems to suggest “disartization”, due to the elimination of the actors or the scene, in its course it ends up asserting itself in the eyes of the viewer. competitor as a theatrical form endowed with “expressive power”.

The “disart form” of Oh farol, concludes Kon – always attentive to the uniqueness of each way of post-dramatic political theater – it is that of a unique “urban intervention theater”, since the play is not traditional theater, as it does not have a scene or actors; nor intervention, because it does not aim to interfere in the life of the city, as in a happenings, perfomance or in an occupation of an abandoned building; nor is it urban, but “post-urban”, because it enthrones “junk spaces” (junkspaces, in the expression of Rem Koolhaas), such as the business towers or shopping malls in the Avenida Berrini region – an area that has undergone a gentrification process similar to that which has occurred in other global cities in the current phase of financial capitalism.

This walk through the non-places of the city, both through the anodyne spaces of office towers and through the degraded areas of the periphery – two faces of the same gentrification process – does not aim, as we suggested, to produce the feeling of mirabilia, from the sudden irruption of poetry into everyday life, as certain artistic vanguards intended, but allowing the traveler to “discover and question his place in the fractured city”.[xxxviii]

Aestheticizing does not mean, here, sweetening the city or providing the traveler with encounters or situations that give him back in a reparative way the lost coexistence, but, on the contrary, producing an experience analogous to that of the horror vacui, of pure desolation, “making things [as Kon says from Boris Groys] not better, but worse — and not relatively worse, but radically worse: making dysfunctional things out of functional things, betraying expectations, revealing the invisible presence of death where we would only have life”.[xxxviii] Oh farol also invests in the failure of the spectator in the face of the impossibility of hierarchizing the countless materials of the “non-staged scene” along the route: actor-guide, passengers on the train, LOBBY of hotel; questionnaires; guidelines on MP3, graffiti station, Singapore.

not just in Oh farol, but in the other pieces chosen by Kon as the most relevant of the new political theater in São Paulo, there is “a certain neo-baroque character”: a multiplicity of heterogeneous materials, of the order of excess, as attested by the four hours of raffle; the “overlapping of countless dramaturgical layers in Oil",[xxxix] the various independent frameworks of (See[ ]Ter); and the hodgepodge of texts, actors, or theater groups in The Permanent Plagiarism Laboratory of Cia Les Commediens Tropicales, as we shall see.

In fact, these pieces cannot be attributed a structure in the sense of syntagmatic composition, by subordination of the parts to the whole, as in “organic” or “symbolic” art; nor is there a paratactic disposition, by juxtaposition of elements (with the exception, perhaps, of (See[ ]Ter), in the sense of a certain avant-garde art, in opposition to Peter Bürger.[xl] These theatrical pieces, in other words, are “non-organic” works, characterized by Kon not by “distanced montage”, but by the co-penetration or porosity between materials of different origins; or, in the author’s own expression, by a “crossing, as a passage through the inside of one material to another, in such a way that the borders between them lose any clarity”,[xi] to the detriment of the unity of form — understood as a relationship between parts, either by hypotaxis or by parataxis, as we said —, which results in the effect of “inconsistency of the totality”[xliii] of the form, pointed out by Kon.

Em Permanent Plagiarism Laboratory, Cia Les Commediens Tropicales, radicalizing the collaborative character of this new political theater, created, in 2013, a theatrical proposal destined to the “imitation” of the pieces run like a rabbit, from Cia dos outros; Petroleum; e Those who no longer know who they are, what they are and where they are need to move, with the involvement of authors and actors from the original companies that participated in the rehearsals, in addition to lending sets and costumes. This laboratory work, close to that of criticism and curatorship, would explain, according to Kon, “the relations of production and authorship”[xiii] of group theater, at a time when, however, the cooperative spirit coming from the Art against barbarism movement was already declining.

This “plagiarism” proposal, which reinforces the self-reflexive dimension of this new theater, is characterized by the author as contradictory, or marked by a tension between strict “imitation” of the models and their transformation into a new work. In Kon's opinion, this “imitation” would rather be “transcreation”, since the openness of the members of the Cia Les Commediens Tropicales to otherness would have allowed, on the one hand, that the poetics of the imitated pieces transformed the procedures of the Cia LCT, and, on the other hand, another, that the poetics of Cia LCT itself introduced “formal alterations” in the imitated pieces.

This transcreation not only resulted from the impossibility of full fidelity to the original — an attempt that was already known to be doomed to failure but also the historical changes that took place in Brazil between 2009 and 2013, such as: protests against the increase in bus fares, police repression of demonstrations for the free pass, until the so-called June Journeys, inspired by the Arab Spring, in the Occupy and in the Spanish Indignados, who imposed on Cia LCT the need for a updating of the original parts. This appropriation by Les Commediens Tropicales of the occupation of urban space, Who doesn't know who he is anymore... 2009, allowed, for example, to reveal it, retroactively, as anticipatory of these manifestations. In fact, as Kon shows, this new São Paulo political theater of urban intervention did not intend to constitute itself as a street theater in the sense of planting the stage in the asphalt, without, however, “infiltrating the city”, but, in consonance with the social manifestations of the period, “rethinking the ways of occupying it”.

If in the trials of Permanent Plagiarism Laboratory the “imagined sharing” did not take place, this would not mean, in Kon's assessment, the failure of this project as a work, if we take it as a symptom of a new moment in theater in São Paulo, in which a cycle is being completed. The author asks, in this direction, if it would not be the LCT project itself that would retroactively produce – like Minerva's owl that takes off at dusk – the illusion of the end of the third cycle of political theater. This elaboration of the recent past of São Paulo theater by the Laboratories had, in any case, the merit – still according to Kon – of taking the author as a producer, by making the group focus not only on the product as a spectacle, but also on the means of theatrical production. Thus, Cia Les Commediens would have realized the “Brechtian mode of production” by transforming the function (Umfunktionierung) of “pre-existing raw material”, while undoing the primacy of the text.

These five pieces that configure, in theatrocracy, a political and self-reflective postdramatic theater, far removed from both bourgeois drama and epic theater, seen by these groups as equally “reified”, would have assumed the urgent task of rethinking the failure of which they themselves would be heirs, undertaking a “dialogue with the dead”, in the expression of Heiner Muller, who, alongside Bürger and Lehmann, is a decisive reference in Kon's aesthetics.

Reacting to the militants of the Brechtian political theater, “distrustful admirers of Muller” who advocated a prompt return to Brecht by refusing to enact the “loss of meaning of the revolutionary process”,[xiv] Kon turns to Muller—in particular his experiment moult, from 1970, staged partially by Those who no longer know who they are, what and where they are, need to move — to think about the downfall of revolutionary art and socialist regimes, without “cynicism or conformism”.

The post-Brechtian poetics of this São Paulo political theater after the aforementioned inflection would not imply, however, the abandonment of Brecht – as we suggested above – but his reassessment, or more precisely, his elaboration (Working through), understood here as the reinscription of what remained active in it in the open field of present scenic possibilities. This elaboration of the modern tradition, and, in particular, of the “Brechtian model” carried out in these pieces would have produced a “turn in the very core of this model” – as Fredric Jameson and Jacques Rancière have already proposed, each in their own way – than their replacement with another model.[xlv]

These plays would have converted, therefore, “Brecht’s name” into “a battlefield”, not only because they were opposed to its exploitation by the traditional political theater, but also because they arranged the procedures of the epic and dialectical scene in such a way that they if they “turned against the scene itself”, even enabling the “reciprocal, dialectical correction” between Brecht's theory and his own plays. Kon examines whether we would not even have “a defense of Brecht against his admirers”, given that “the joy in overcoming the failure of Brechtian theater” in the plays analyzed in this book, would be “more Brechtian than the melancholy fixation of Brechtians from São Paulo on a past position.[xlv]

With the purpose of confirming the loyalty of these groups to Brecht, Kon also recalls that, for the author, “the disillusionment with real socialism” meant that the effect of the dialectical theater no longer turned to “the revolution to be made”, although it was not the result of a “made revolution”. "The revolution is no longer to be made and it has not been made",[xlv] said Brecht. And more: intending to narrow this proximity, he also recalls, resorting to Rancière, that “Brecht never ceased to fail”: “The Threepenny Opera charmed those he wanted to punish and A rozhodão was rejected by the party it exalted”,[xlviii] among other examples.

In the wake of these failures, post-Brechtian poetics, evidenced in the parts of the book, invested, according to Kon, in the “opacity of a non-communicative image”, that is, in the “uselessness of the autonomous work for immediate political praxis”, always moved by “insistence despite everything”.[xlix] In this poetics of the insistence of the new theater in São Paulo — which is also manifested in the ever-repeated desire for group work — we would have something analogous to the convergence between “the agonic logic of not being able to win and the logic of not being able to finish”,[l] in Menke's characterization of Clov's attempt to free himself from Hamm, in end of gamea, from Beckett.

In “Final Remarks”, Kon examines even more recent pieces such as the trilogy Abnegation, from the Tablado de Arruar, and War without battle, or now and for a long time there will be no more winners in this world, only losers, by Cia Les Commediens Tropicales, with the musicians of Quarteto à Deriva, of 2015. In Abnegation, despite the refined dramaturgy by Alexandre Dal Farra and Clayton Mariano (already emphasized in relation to Oil), which casts a “renewed look at the current national political situation”, what we have, according to the author, is a “formal conservatism”, the result of its “limitation to realistic language” – to an “overly explicit discourse, too conscious, and at the same time absolutely violent”, as if our society were just “psychotic”; which implies seeing in the “behavior of politicians not the manifestation of a corrupted structure, but an individual defect” that would be the “unilateral cause of the ills and injustice of the country” – launching the play, thus, in “moralizing common sense”.[li] Em war without battle, 2015, in the opposite sense, “from experimentation taken to the limits of the scenic form”, it would have resulted, despite the intent of Cia LCT, pure randomness, depriving the form of any “internal coherence”.

The evaluation of this most recent production – even though it points out that The last one is the penultimate 2.0 performed by Teatro da Vertigem in 2014, in an underpass on Rua Xavier de Toledo, in downtown São Paulo, has overcome the old impasse between “the power of images in site-specific” and the “weakness of explanatory dramaturgy” with its “emphasis on represented contents”[liiii] – leads Kon to reinforce the idea that the third cycle of political theater in São Paulo would have ended. Endorsing this diagnosis, he further states that the piece's "spectacular video and lighting effects" Faust, from 2014, from Cia Sao Jorge, who had already staged raffle e Who doesn't know who he is anymore... as we saw, “barely hid the lack of purpose of the artists on stage”, in view of the absence of “an effective questioning of the material”.[iii]

Finally, it should be emphasized that the plays commented on in these final considerations would indicate, according to the author, a movement contrary to the plays analyzed in the previous chapters, since we would have, in these more recent plays, a return from the street to the stage; and even those that still turned to the occupation of the city in the assumption that the street would guarantee “the critical and experimental quality of the works carried out in it”,[book] they would not escape “fetishism and banality”.

These observations do not convey the richness of nuances in the book. The beautiful prose, in addition to being informative, indicates the theoretical breath of the author who does not propose to interpret texts by Adorno or Lehmann, but to operate with them, building a theatrical criticism of rare vigor. The ingenious analyzes of the pieces do not postulate an external measure of evaluation in order to subsume them to such a measure, but apprehend, from an evaluation immanent to each one of them, their own internal law.

In Adorno's sense, we have immanent theatrical criticism here, since the comments on each play do not result in "reconciliation of objective contradictions in the lure of harmony" of the theatrical material, but the "negative expression of the idea of ​​harmony by evidencing in the most intimate structure of each of them, their contradictions” or “inconsistencies of the totality”,[lv] as Kon prefers. This respect for the uniqueness of each play did not prevent him, however, from grouping them according to their external coherence in a cycle of political theater in São Paulo, based on common elements, such as: the emphasis given to group work, their relationship with the public space, and the reflective nature of the paths of contemporary political theater.

About the negation power of the artistic form, the author concludes, close to Bürger, that it would be a mistake “to expect from theatrical art a revolutionary effectiveness and an interference in the field of praxis to which it cannot correspond”.[lv] It should also be highlighted as an important aspect of this book the fact that Kon mobilizes, in the examination of São Paulo theater plays, the central questions in the contemporary aesthetic debate. Positioning himself within this debate, the author defends, for example, the need to safeguard the autonomy of art in opposition to the idea of ​​overcoming it postulated by supporters of the “theatre of the real” or of “relational aesthetics”; for it would be precisely in the “distance that separates art from vital praxis” that resides “the margin of freedom within which alternatives to what exists would become thinkable”.[lviii]

If the chosen plays were the most significant of the São Paulo theatrical scene of the period, according to Kon, it is because they valued “the conscious technique of non-comprehension” (the effect Nicht Verstehen) bringing to the forefront the need to discuss all opinions and actions raised by them. This book constitutes, with rare expertise, an indispensable reflection on the direction of contemporary political theater in São Paulo, on the possibility of theatrical representation itself, or even, on the insistence on a political art, of resistance, in an era of generalized aestheticization.

*Ricardo Fabbrini He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Art after the vanguards (Unicamp).

Partially modified version of the Preface “Another Left Aesthetics”, originally published in the book On Theatercracy: aesthetics and politics of contemporary theater in São Paulo, by Artur Sartori Kon. São Paulo: Annablume, 2017.


[I] Con, A. On Theatercracy: aesthetics and politics of contemporary theater in São Paulo. São Paulo: Annablume; Fapesp, 2017 (

[ii] Kon, Arthur. On Theatercracy: aesthetics and politics of contemporary theater in São Paulo. Masters dissertation. Graduate Program in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, 2015, p. 13.

[iii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 25.

[iv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 28.

[v] Lehmann, HT The Post Dramatic Theater. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2007.

[vi] Arantes, P. The Law of Torment. In: Desgranges, F.; Lepique, M. (orgs). Theater and public life: the promotion and theatrical collectives of São Paulo. São Paulo: São Paulo Theater Cooperative; Hucitec, 2012. p. 200-210 (

[vii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 127.

[viii] Ibidem, p. 80.

[ix] Ibidem, p. 98.

[X] Ibid.

[xi] Ibidem, p. 103.

[xii] Rancière, J. The sharing of the sensible: aesthetics and politics. São Paulo: Ed. 34, 2005, p. 55 (

[xiii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 118.

[xiv] Ibidem, p. 45.

[xv] Ibidem, p. 86.

[xvi] Ibidem, p. 135.

[xvii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 142.

[xviii] Ibidem, p. 143.

[xx] Ibid.

[xx] Ibidem, p. 156.

[xxx] Ibidem, p. 157.

[xxiii] Theodor Adorno apud Burger, P. Vanguard Theory. São Paulo, Cosac Naify, 2008, p. 127 (

[xxiii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 148.

[xxv] Ibidem, p. 165.

[xxiv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit.

[xxv] Ibidem, p. 167.

[xxviii] Ibidem, p. 168.

[xxviii] Ibidem, p. 175.

[xxix] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 179.

[xxx] Heiner Muller apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 183.

[xxxii] Alenka Zupancic apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 196.

[xxxi] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 198.

[xxxii] Alenka Zupančič apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 197.

[xxxv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 197.

[xxxiv] Ibidem, p. 200.

[xxxiv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 205.

[xxxviii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 240.

[xxxviii] Ibidem, p. 242.

[xxxix] Ibidem, p. 180.

[xl] See Burger, P. vanguard theory, op. cit., p. 117-163.

[xi] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 203, author's italics.

[xliii] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 43.

[xiii] Ibidem, p. 246.

[xiv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 296.

[xlv] Cf. By the way, Fredric Jameson. Brecht and the question of method. São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2013 (; and Jacques Rancière. the emancipated spectator, São Paulo: WMF Martins Fontes, 2012 (

[xlv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 306.

[xlv] Berthold Brecht apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 304.

[xlviii] Jacques Rancière apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., note 255. Cf. Rancière, J. the emancipated spectator, op. cit.

[xlix] Jacques Rancière apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 308.

[l] Samuel Beckett apud Kon, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 164.

[li] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 310.

[liiii] Ibidem, p. 311.

[iii] Ibidem, p. 312.

[book] Ibidem, p. 310.

[lv] Con, A. of the theatrocracy, op. cit., p. 43 and 202.

[lv] Ibidem, p. 268.

[lviii] Ibid.

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